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Food-Export Restrictions Undermine Goal Of Food Security

“Although food prices remain below their February 2011 peak, and the situation has not yet reached international crisis proportions, the recent spike is cause for serious concern,” Robert Hormats, U.S. under-secretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment, writes in this Foreign Policy opinion piece, adding, “That’s why it’s especially important now that countries not make matters worse, as some have done in recent years in the face of food shortages.” He continues, “In response to popular demands, governments in some exporting countries have in the past imposed restrictions on the sale abroad of domestically produced agricultural output,” noting, “These measures have taken many forms, such as export quotas, prohibitive export taxes, or outright bans.”

“But although export restrictions are generally implemented in the name of domestic food security, they rarely achieve that goal,” Hormats writes, adding, “The basic point is this: Food security cannot be viewed in zero-sum terms. The data are clear.” He provides examples to support his argument and continues, “It’s time for world leaders to acknowledge that export restrictions undermine the goal of food security.” He concludes, “While keeping crops at home through artificial export barriers may appear tempting for leaders in the short term, it causes great harm to the citizens of other countries, not to mention large segments of their own domestic populations. Food-export restrictions are, in short, bad and harmful policy” (8/23).

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